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Wandering Generalities vs Meaningful Specifics

As we are quickly heading into the last month of 2018, there are thoughts of New Year’s Resolutions running through the minds of many people.  I have often wondered what it is about the beginning of a new year that sparks so many people to turn over a new leafand begin to do the things that they know they should be doing right now!  It has been estimated that health club memberships increase by 20% every January. During this month, the gym is typically jam packed with new “fitness zealots.”  Unfortunately, the month of February finds the gym attendance plummet back to normal levels.

As salespeople, let’s make a pact to not fall into this pattern of New Years Resolution style goal setting.  The marketplace into which we sell is constantly evolving into one that is weeding out those salespeople that maintain the status quo.  This marketplace is becoming more and more demanding on sales professionals.  Customers have much more access to their options (our competitors) in the marketplace. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all salespeople to set a new goal for their own skill enhancement and growth for the New Year.

Year in and year out we find that it is the salespeople that regularly set their goals that show up on the top of the rankings.  Every time we do a seminar, we ask the question, “Who wants to be more successful next year than they were this year?”  Naturally, there is never a hand that stays down.  Everyone wants to improve, to make more money, to be more successful.  The fact is, most people do not define what MORE SUCCESSFUL is.  That is the main problem:  Most people have Wandering Generality Goals.

A wandering generality goal is one with no specifics to it.  “I want to make a lot of money.  I want to buy a new car.  I want a new house.  I want to be rich.”  While many of these may seem to be worthy pursuits, they have about as much chance of happening as does World Peace.  The danger with wandering generalities is that are not really goals at all.  What they are in fact, are dreams!

Wandering generalities are not written down, do not have timelines, and are very rarely accompanied by a plan for their accomplishment.  Hoping to accomplish something is not a great strategy. Wanting something really bad doesn’t make it happen!

If you, as a sales professional truly wish to accomplish something, that something needs to be written down and defined as specifically as possible.  A Meaningful Specific Goal is one that you have a clear picture of and a specific plan by which to achieve it.  For example:  I drive a new 2019 Jaguar Sedan which is black with tan interior.  I will lease the car by March 25thwith $3,000 down and a monthly payment of $575 for 36 months.  I will accomplish this by closing one more sale per week and saving an additional $1000 in commissions per month for the down payment and subsequent lease and insurance payments.  I will accomplish these additional weekly sales by making 10 additional prospecting calls per day every day for the entire year.  This will result in 4-5 more sales opportunities per week.  With my current closing ration at 1 in 4, I will meet this goal and drive this new car very easily.

What Motivates the Buying Process???

Every time I run a session, whether with sales managers and CEOs or with salespeople, I ask the question: What do people buy…benefits or features? Without exception, there is a pause and then the word benefits sneaks out. (Like they are not sure) YES!  Benefits are what people buy!  I don’t want your product!  I don’t care to own your service!  I simply want the benefit of what owning it does for me!

An overused example: All of us who own a power drill do not care to own the drill.  At one point in our past, we simply wanted a HOLE!  The hole is the benefit that the drill provides.

So it is with our products and services.  The things that are important to you about your product or service are typically not what is important to your customers.

I perform the following exercise in many of my sessions:  Grab a blank piece of paper and very quickly write down the three main BENEFITS of doing business with your company.

Did you do it?  If you did (and you are like most of those who go through this exercise), you probably have some of the following words or phrases on the page in front of you:

Quality, Service, Reliability, Trust, Dedicated Staff, Technology, Local, People, Knowledge, Track Record, Me,                 Relationships, Blah, Blah, Blah…

You see, EVERYONE says the same stuff all of the time!  We go into the marketplace and tout the benefits of quality, service, and reliability (the holy tri-fecta of sales).  Our competition is saying the same things.  We all sound too similar.  We all sound like we attended the same school of sales.  We are all putting ourselves into the same box.

STOP IT!  Start telling the customer what these words or phrases (FEATURES) translate to in the form of benefits for them!  What does “service” translate into for them?  What BENEFIT do I get because of your products quality?  The answers to these questions will bring the customer closer to the reason that they will but from you.

Here’s a quick tip to help: Follow up each of your feature statements with this sentence:

So……what that (the feature) means to YOU is this: ________________________.

There are only a handful of benefits that your customer seeks.  What main benefits do you feel that your product or service provides for your customer?  Is it Peace of Mind?  Is it Greater Profitability?  Is it Ease of Use?  Is it Looking Good or Status?  Is it to Dominate the Competition?

What is it that owning your product allows me to have that I do not have currently?  If you can answer this and speak to this in your efforts to sell to me, I will not only go out of my way to own your product, I will pay a premium as well!

Pay Attention Now!! -Or Pay Another Way Later

Too often in the selling cycle, salespeople find themselves “back on their heels” trying to figure out what to do too late in the process. They are often scrambling to meet last minute demands by the customer or to pull together that “homerun presentation” that really delivers all of the main points.  Many times, the primary focus of the salesperson and his/her support team has been what they will present or say in their “moment of glory” in the boardroom.

It has been my experience that we, as salespeople, need to be 100% focused way back at the beginning stages of the sales process in order to get in the customers heart and headdeeper and more thoroughly.  We need to understand their business and their most compelling business needs of TODAY so that we can not only offer the most compelling and specific solution to meet their needs, but also (if we do it correctly), can possibly even help them write the specific parameters of the solution.  These will be the parameters that we deliver best AND that the competition will be judged by.

Here is my main point:  Many times, customers don’t know how to buy!  On top of that, they really never want to own your product or service in the first place. (Let’s face it…is your customer waking up today excited to see you in order to OWN more of your stuff?) What they DO want, however, is to be able to cure a pain or put peace of mind to a fear or to accomplish something that your product or service can assist with. In order to truly show our customer that we are the best solution, we need to understand what that somethingis—and often we need to help them understandwhat that is—before we begin to dump information on them about our proposed solution!

Salespeople and leaders often seek guidance and coaching from training firms and consultants regarding negotiation techniques, objection management strategies, and closing skills.  While all of these are crucially important skills to master, it is my belief that the need to employ these skills too often is based upon a lack of focus on the discovery process in the early stages of the customer’s “buying process.”  You see, we are often so focused on our selling process and our need to execute that processthat we do not pay enough attention to the customer’s need to buy –it is NOT because they want to own your product or service!

The clues as to how to OWN the account and make the competition irrelevant are found at the earlier stages of the sales cycle.  We teach that there are two main questions that we need to get CLEAR answers to early in the dialogue with the customer:

1-Can you help me understand what it is that youare trying to accomplish?

2-Can you help me understand why that is important to you?

Now, there are a couple of “catches” to this!  (You didn’t think it was THAT easy did you?) The first catch, again, is that many customers do not know the answer to these questions—at least the rightanswers.  In fact, the questions are written in a way that a conversation is the desired outcome. “Can you help me understand what you’re trying to accomplish?”…begs for an explanation whereas if we asked “What are you trying to accomplish?” we would simply get aninformationbased answer.  By asking it differently, we are looking deeper and trying to help the customer understand WHY they want to buy—to get a motivation-basedanswer.

The second “catch” to this approach is that prospective customers won’t always answer these questions the first time that you ask either because, as above, they have not really thought about it so they do not know the answer OR you may not have earned the right to get that answer just yet. Therefore, we need to be patient and focused in our approach to this.  We may need to prepare to ask these questions in several different ways at various times throughout the discovery phase of the sales process.

Finally, as it relates to these two questions, please notice that both questions are focused on the individual and their motives are.  Each decision maker or influencer in the buying process has their own specific motives as to how and why they will make their choice.  We need to understand earlier in the process what the motives are of each “player in the game” so that we can “write the playbook” accordingly.

Engage in this approach and you will find yourself in much more meaningful and fruitful dialogue early in the process which will communicate your professionalism and expertise better than all of your presentation slides could ever do.  The result will be an exceedingly high level of irrelevance that will be cast upon your competition!  They are focused on making a sale—YOU will be focused on creating a buyer!

Get Fit to SELL!

Today’s selling marketplace is not the same as it was 10 years ago.  There are more demands on our time.  There are more demands on us.  Customer’s expectations have increased along with their price sensitivity.  We are connected 24/7 via email, voicemail, cell phones, and IM.  We have to move faster, more efficiently, and more often to meet the needs of those with whom we wish to do business.  Our managers expect us to stop what we are doing and jump on a plane, make a sales call, fix a problem, take a client to a ballgame, have a late-night dinner, and do a variety of things to make sure that we don’t lose an opportunity or a client.

What is the answer as to how to compete—how to keep up?  Well, I have chosen to address part of the answer in this article.  GET FIT for the challenges that you face daily.  Oxygen has become an amazing additive to my daily/weekly diet through exercise.  Now, before you sign off in disgust at another exercise convert, I challenge you to read on….but only if you are interested in an EASY way to gain some additional edge over your competition.

Oh….do I have your attention?

The brain apparently is an organ that gives back in accordance to what it is given.  I have, for years touted the importance of feeding the brain by reading, listening to tapes and CDs in the areas in which you wish to improve, attending workshops & seminars, and reading industry magazines (yours and your customer’s).  It has long been my opinion that the more you feed your brain in the areas of expertise you need, the better your “shot” at becoming what you seek.  Although that has not changed, I now firmly believe in the feeding of something else to the brain—OXYGEN!

By setting up and following a simple regimen of exercise, you may very well increase your sales ability dramatically.  Let me see if I can give you a real-world example:

As a speaker, it is absolutely imperative that I am ON when I am on the speaking platform.  There is no excuse for a lackluster performance.  A client has engaged me to deliver a well-prepared message-to deliver content-and to do so in a way that will spark changes in behavior and thus, changes in results.  I need to be on my game.  I need to be well prepared and set to handle whatever may be thrown my way by the audience.  (Almost sounds like a sales call, doesn’t it?)

A while back, I was in Canada delivering two separate sessions to two different groups of CEOs regarding the development of a World Class Sales Organization.  I was to deliver two separate 4-hour sessions that would cover a variety of subjects including recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, retraining, and retaining of sales talent.  Because of the audiences that I would be addressing, (CEOs) I had to be prepared to adjust my content to the desires of those in attendance and be prepared for group questions, challenges, and other interaction.  Although I have delivered over 500 of these sessions over the years, every group is different and something new may come up at any time—I must be on my game!

The night that I arrived, I made sure that I got into my hotel and got prepared to deliver for the next morning.  My plane arrived late and I got to the hotel about 10:00pm.  I immediately unpacked for the next morning (my 1st session was to start at 8:00am).  After falling asleep around midnight, I arose at 5:00am to get in a workout in the hotel gym.  I have to say, I was not particularly motivated when I got up, but 10 minutes into a 2-mile run, I was looking forward to the weight room.  90 minutes later, I was set for the day.

My session that morning to my first group of CEOs was fantastic.  I had a very engaged group of people that questioned and challenged me throughout.  The session was delivered with high energy and it came sooooo easy.  It seemed that I had just begun speaking when I was given the sign that the session was over.  The grades that I received were unanimously perfect.  Not only was the session an effortless BLAST for me.  Apparently, the group thought it was content rich and value packed as well.

The balance of that day went to a coaching session with a client of mine that flew in from Winnipeg followed by dinner and a couple of bottles of wine.  Needless to say, the evening was late and the next morning held no exercise activity before I was going LIVE again at 8:00am.  Although the session was very similar and the audience was equally engaged, I had to put in much greater effort to get similar results.  I had to think more and try harder.  Why?  In my opinion, my brain did not get that release of oxygen in the morning before the session.  Although the end result was pretty much the same (great reviews), the effort I had to put in to get there was almost twice as much!

Have you ever noticed some sales seem to be effortless works of art where you gain an immediate connection with the prospect?  The questions that you asked seem to move the prospect towards your offer.  The answers that the customer seeks are right on the tip of your tongue and they come out so smooth.  The rapport and trust that you built was done so with very little effort and you walk away with a sale that you didn’t even have to ask for.  I’m here to tell you that the majority of your sales can go like that if you get in shape for selling.

Here’s all you have to do:

First, you gotta want it.  If you don’t do it for your health, do it for the additional commissions!

Second, you need to design a plan.  Use the 3 C’s:  Clarity-Commitment-Consistency

(Be CLEAR on what it is that you will do each day—Stay COMMITTED to your plan—and stay CONSISTENT with your efforts to feed your brain every day.)

Third, Take immediate ACTION to get started.

Whether you choose to walk, run, swim, or hit the gym and stretch or push some iron around, I challenge you to take that first step to your health and selling success by setting in ACTION a plan to “Get Fit for Selling”.

Be Your BEST!

picture of happy business team celebrating victory in office

In today’s competitive market, none of us have time for mediocrity or half heated efforts from our sales and service teams.  We need to be fighting for every inch of ground.  We need our people to be their absolute BEST with no excuses.

Why?  Most companies are facing fewer opportunities to land new business from both new and existing customers this year.  To use a baseball analogy, we are all getting less “at bats” this year.  Here is the brutal fact that we all need to face:  If you do not improve your skills while “in the batter’s box,” you will score far less this year.  That leads to less commission dollars for salespeople and less sales and profits for the companies that employ them.  Now, throw in the desperation that may creep into the entire organization to make sales and you will see that margins start to get compromised as prices are dropped and all sorts of justifications are made to do so.  The company culture starts to get challenged due to inevitable cut-backs and staff reductions.  What a mess!

Here is just one way to begin to right the ship.  Make sure that you raise the bar in all that you so!  Make it impossible for your prospects, customers, and clients to even think about doing business with anyone else.  You need to be (and expect from all around you) only the BEST!  No excuses…no blame.  Just the BEST!

In giving thought to this article, I thought I would offer my thoughts based upon an acronym of that word; BEST!  Read on and relate the following ideas to you and your organization.

B—Belief

It is very common for those in your organization to begin to have thoughts that challenge their basic belief in the company, the products, the pricing, their colleagues, the leadership, the marketplace, the customers and more during tougher economic times.  Yet, it is this belief that drives your organizations success now more than ever.  Belief is the cornerstone of confidence.  Your entire team needs to feel that they are in the right place, at the right time, with the right company, the right products/services and the right prices, selling into the right marketplace to the right people.  When that confidence isn’t BEAMING at every “touch point” in your organization, difficult times are not far behind.

So…eyes open…ears open!  Pay attention or pay the price!  Negativity and pessimism in your sales and service departments today are exponentially more dangerous than ever.

You need 100% buy-in and 100% belief!  Raise the bar on your communication and your visibility.  Engage your team in twice daily huddles.  Spend 15 minutes every morning reinforcing the importance of their efforts for the day ahead of them and 15 minutes every evening validating and recognizing the warriors for the battles they fought today!  Your involvement as a leader will drive out those who are lost and drive IN those who are destined to carry you and your organization to greatness!

Attitude is one of the key fundamentals to all success. And belief drives attitude!  Remember the old adage that states, “Whether you think you can or your think you can’t…you’re right!”  Everywhere a sales professional looks today, he/she is bombarded with the doomsday predictions of the press, the pundits, and (unfortunately) even those closest to him such as colleagues, family, friends, and neighbors.  In that sea of negativity there needs to be a lighthouse that marks their bearings; a beacon of hope that they are on the right track.  Key in on the BELIEF of your people.  Before you do, however, check into your own belief level….it might need a tune-up as well!

E—Everything Matters

Several books have been written over the past few years in the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” collection.  With all due respect to those words of wisdom, you need to understand that those books were written when the sun was shining and the economy was stronger than today!  So, find a spot on the shelf (or in the “round file”) file those books and understand that everything matters today.

We are doing business in a world today where access to information (and your competition) is as easy as firing up a laptop.  Customers are barraged daily with options as to who to do business with.  Our competitors are doing desperate things, chasing all that moves, dropping price, and challenging our customers’ belief in us!  We simply cannot stand by and sing let that happen.  This is war and everything matters!  Every penny of our margins need to be justified today!  Every ounce of customer loyalty needs to be earned at every possible level.  When it comes down to a choice between US or THEM, we need to have not one or two, but 10-20 examples of differentiation and value!  And as small as some of them may seem, all of them add up to more wins and less losses.  So…here are a few examples for your sales efforts today:

Sales: 

Voicemail–Outbound-Only the sharpest, most focused voicemails are to be left.  Remember the main reason that we leave voicemails is to get a call back.  Be clear, be concise, and be prepared to compel them into the action you desire—a return call!

Voicemail-Inbound-Pick up your telephone (cell phone and desk phone) and change that voicemail NOW!  I’ll bet it has not been changed in ages.  You can stand out with freshness in your message.  Just think, your prospect, customer, or client is on the phone

with an opportunity for you.  What do you wish to convey?  Mediocrity, same-ol-same-ol, indifference OR energy, passion, creativity, and excitement.  Your choice!

Email-For those of you who thought email was a fad, bad news!  Email has become a communication tool that has, arguably revolutionized the way that companies (salespeople) and customers do business.  It has, in my opinion, become one of the biggest communication crutches for salespeople today.  While I believe that there is extreme value in e-communication as a tool today, it all too often is overused, misused, and abused by marketers and salespeople.  Pay close attention to the emails that are being sent out to your customers.  Don’t rely on an email to express your emotions, your passion and your value.  Don’t simply “put something out there” via email to judge your customer’s reaction.  It is simply too easy (on both ends) to hide emotions, misconstrue agendas, and convey false genuineness via email today.  Tighten up your email (spelling and grammar) and, whenever possible pick up the phone or get off your butt and CONNECT!!

Process-Are the ways that you go about your sales process today as effective as they need to be for your prospects, customers, and clients in today’s world?  Too often, when I am wearing my coach/consultant hat, I see companies that approaching the marketplace today the same way that they have for the past several years.  Here is another newsflash:  Your prospects and customers today are buying differently and looking for more, for different, and (this hurts) they care less and less about you and your company!  Everyone is in survival mode.  Are you still following the same process as you have for years?  Are you still relying on your presentation or your PowerPoint?  Are the tactics you employ even relevant today?  It’s worthy of an overhaul wouldn’t you think?  Take your process apart and tighten it up NOW because your customer demands it and your competition might beat you to it.  Here is a tip:  Figure out what your buyers today need more than anything (not lower prices) and help them see how you deliver it better than anyone.  Stop selling and HELP THEM BUY!  Remember this; Safe trumps cheap!  Make your offer compelling and safe because your focus is on THEM and not you!

S—Step Up

Now is the time for everyone in your company to truly understand their role in the acquisition and retention of customers.  It is now time to work our butts off and to FIGHT!  That leaves no room for halfhearted effort and losers.  Sound too tough?  Too bad, it’s time to rise to the occasion.  If not now, when?

I was recently in the United Red Carpet Club in Chicago on a layover on a flight and saw an interview of Nick Saban, Head Coach of the Alabama college football team.  Although I was across the room and could not hear the message, it was being close captioned across the screen.  He was talking to the media about the expectations of the upcoming season.  He was discussing work ethic and what it would take to win a national title this year.  During this rant (and, although I could not hear him, it certainly looked like a passionate dissertation by an enthusiastic leader) Saban stated that the hard work and determination needs to “dominate the competition” in this league was extreme and (this was the part that I loved) what the players perception of hard work meant prior to coming to camp this year was irrelevant and non-consequential!  We need to raise it to an entire new level to compete and dominate in this division—and to win a national title.  Wow!

It’s time for all of us to step up.  Very few companies are escaping the grasp of this economic turmoil.  One thing that we all have in common is that we need to be more focused and more disciplined today to do the right things over and over and over today.  Self discipline has been defined as “doing the things that you need to do, when you need to do them, whether you want to or not!”  At what point in the past 10 years has this statement been more relevant than today.

T—Tenacity

Tenacity is defined as holding firmly, persistent, or stubborn.  When I think of a tenacious salesperson, I often get a picture in my mind of a dog firmly latched onto the cuff of the pants of someone, never letting go.  In this day and age, the attitude and ability of your people simply to not give up when the going gets difficult is so important.

Several years ago, I read study by the Harvard Business Review that identified the two main characteristics that stood out in top sales professionals.  Out of all of the possible variables in skill sets these two areas were the most common:  Empathy and Persistence!

In other words, top sellers as a whole had a variety of skills and many different activities that helped them achieve success but it was the willingness and ability to understand and relate to the customer and their needs coupled with their dogged determination (their TENACITY) to see to it that they helped the customer make the purchase that separated them from the pack.

So, when you set your targets, your goals this year, did you do them in pencil?  Did you decide that you would ebb and flow your sales and profits based upon what the marketplace would bare or did you make a DECISION as to what you would accomplish?  Do the salespeople on your team see a sale all the way through or do they tend to lose faith when the going gets tough?  Do they strategize and execute or wring their hands and wait?  If you or your salespeople manage accounts and the ongoing sales in those accounts, do you approach the success of your clientele with tenacity, not letting them give up on themselves (and eventually you) or do you simply wait for the inevitable “apology call” Pay attention!  Everyone that you lose during these times is more potentially devastating—don’t give up…don’t let go…failure is not an option.

Your company, your employees, your customers, your family and you all deserve one thing today.  And that is your BEST!  So, take a moment and ask yourself a question right now.  For every move that you have made today, have you offered your best?  Anything short of that simply will not do!

Make an IMPACT!

fine image of classic 3d newton cradle background

One of the main areas that I have found myself coaching salespeople the past few months is IMPACT.  I contend that, although it is important to be the best that you absolutely can be in every interaction with a prospect, customer, or client, you do not have to be the best that they have ever seen.  You don’t have to be the smoothest talker.  You don’t have to be the silver-tongued devil that has an answer for every question. You do, however, need to make an IMPACT!  What does that mean?  What questions might you ask yourself before the sales call to ensure that an IMPACT can be made? After some thought, I have chosen to define IMPACT as a combination of the following areas:

I-IMPRESSION  “What impression do I want them to have of me?”  There are a variety of impressions that prospects, customers, and clients can have of us based upon any interaction.  Unfortunately, not all of them are positive!  But, with proper preparation, we can focus on doing the things necessary to “stack the deck” in our favor.  The best sales professionals today are very cognizant of the customer perspective and thus, very aware of every move they make, how they look, how they prepare, and how they show.  Here are a few examples (both positive and negative) of impressions that we can leave:

  • Professional UN-Professional
  • Respectful DIS-Respectful
  • Interested Deal Focused
  • Resource Salesperson
  • Solution Problem
  • Investment Cost

M-MEMORABLE “What do I want them to remember when I’m gone?” One of the keys to making an IMPACT is being memorable in the minds of your prospect, customer, or client. This often comes from making strong statement utilizing your best “power phrases.” Every solid sales professional has their “go-to” phrases or “word-tracks” that truly drive home the desired point. It is often this phrase that makes an IMPACT. Here is an example of one of my favorites I’ve used for years when faced with a customer with price concerns:

  • “I understand that you can get a similar product/service from one of my competitors at a lower initial price. In fact, if what you pay is your main deciding factor, you most likely will not do business with me. However, if your concern is more about what you get for what you pay, then you will do business with nobody but me!”

P-P.P.O.D.  “What Positive Perception Of Difference will I make such that they will go out of their way and/or pay a premium to do business with me?”  The best salespeople are always attempting to create differentiation in the marketplace between themselves and the competition.  They furthermore realize that differentiation comes from their actions as well as their words.  They create a positive perception of difference through the way they dress, the way they ask questions, the way they “brand” themselves before, during, and after the sale, the way they present their opportunity, or the way they ask for the business.  The best realize that typically it is the companies that “stand out” that have the highest return of customers and thus they look to “stand out” as well.

A-ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN  “What do I need to know in order to increase my chances of winning the sale?”  The best sales professionals realize that the strongest sentence that they can put “out there” to a prospect, customer, or client ends in a question mark!  While their competitors are out there showing up and throwing up on sales calls, they are probing, digging, inquiring, going deeper, diagnosing, and finding out their customers highest value needs and motivators so that they can provide the best solution.  Defined as “The Shortest Course on Selling,” the art of asking questions and listening does more to make an IMPACT than anything else you could ever hope to do!

  • “If you ask the right questions and truly listen to your customer’s answers, they will explain your business to you!”
  • “Nobody ever LISTENED themselves out of a sale!” 

C-CHARACTER (Have one-Don’t BE one!) “How will I increase the perceived value of my product/service through my rock-solid character?”  It has been said that a well-rounded character is square in all his/her dealings. Selling is defined as a transfer of trust. Sales pros need to make sure that transfer is made early and often throughout the sales process.  That doesn’t happen by speaking negatively about the competition, a prospect’s prior decision, your internal sales support, or anyone else.  It also does not come from speaking about your customer’s competitor that you sell to.  What it does come from is sincere professionalism in every aspect of your interaction with prospects, customers, and clients (even behind the scenes.)

  • “Character is what happens when nobody is looking!”

T-TOUCH ‘EM  “How will I make sure that they know me beforehand, hear me during, and don’t forget me afterwards?”  It has often been said, “In business, it is not what you know but who you know.”  The best sales professionals believe, “It is not who I know but who knows me that counts in business!”  Companies spend millions of marketing dollars to “brand” themselves and create a “top of consciousness” in the minds of their customers through a variety of ways that they touch them.  Today’s top producers realize that the best way that can assure that their prospects, customers, and clients think of them when a need to buy comes about is through frequent, repetitious contact before, during, and after the initial sale.  These touches come in many forms and include a combination of personal contact, letters, e-mails, faxes, mailed articles, postcards, value-add newsletters, suggestions, referrals, reference requests, thank you cards, holiday/anniversary cards, and many, many more.  A word of caution, however, is to make sure that you don’t do what everyone else is doing. (See PPOD above!)

By making an IMPACT On your prospects, customers, and clients in all you do, you stand a better chance as a sales professional to earn their business now and forever.  Contrary to popular current books in the marketplace, the little things do matter so sweat them all!  Remember, there is a big burden on you to have to be the best and only one can achieve that.  But every sales professional has the ability (and duty) to make an IMPACT!  Happy hunting!

The Power of YOU!

Power of YOU

This week finds me keeping multiple balls in the air (more so than usual!).  While I’m adept at the juggling act, sometimes keeping things simple results in the most effective of outcomes.  Inspired by simplicity, YOU are the focus of my newsletter article today.

If I was challenged, as I often am, to name the most important thing on which to focus when looking for improvement in sales results, my answer would not be one that you might expect.  There are those of you out there that would most likely think that my answer would fall in some tactical skill category such as being prepared, prospecting, goal setting, closing, asking better questions, listening, or something else along those lines.

There are others of you that would assume that my answer might revolve around the amount of activity that you go through every day.  Again, tactically speaking, these areas would cover cold calls, client visits, touch campaigns, and other activity necessary for increased results.

But, if I was really pressed to name the ONE thing that moves you from mediocrity to WOW it would come down to a 3 letter word.—YOU!  Yes you!

You see, every time you close a deal and your customers make a purchase, the first purchase that they make EVERY TIME is you!  They have to buy into the fact that you are a professional and deserve their business.  They have to buy into the fact that you CARE about them and their needs more than you and yours.  They have to buy into your passion, your focus, and your advice. Your product or service is secondary.

So, my advice, do not underestimate the Power of YOU.  Invest in yourself.  Give yourself the time you need to learn, grow, live your life and your passions. Take the best care of YOU that you can.  When we take time out of our busy schedules/juggling acts and we take care of ourselves, it actually enables us to be better.  We are better sales people, we are better friends, spouses, partners, parents, siblings, etc.  Be YOUR best every day.  Sometimes, it’s really that simple.

When is it OK to Fail?

Stressed businesswoman in the office

It is okay to fail when you have given it your very best effort, when you have played the game to win.    It is okay to fail when you have given it all you’ve got, leaving nothing in reserve. It is okay to fail when you have spent yourself in the effort.  It is okay to fail when you have gone way beyond what is expected of you.  It is okay to fail when you take the long shot gamble.  It is okay to fail when you try something new, something for which you have no experience or background. It is okay to fail after you have gone the extra mile.  It is okay to fail when failing doesn’t mean quitting, when it doesn’t mean you stop trying.

When is it NOT OK to Fail?

It is not okay to fail when you haven’t given your best effort. You may fail here, but this is not an honorable failure.  It is not okay to fail when you have something left to give, when you keep something in reserve, when you save yourself. You may fail here, but this failure is not acceptable when spending yourself may have meant a different outcome.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t prepared yourself for the game, when you haven’t done your homework. You may fail here, but lack of preparedness is not an acceptable reason to fail.  It isn’t okay to fail because you have ignored the fundamentals. And it isn’t okay to fail because you haven’t ignored the fundamentals enough. Sometimes succeeding is built on the fundamentals, and sometimes it is built on overcoming the fundamentals. It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t taken the safe shot, and isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t taken the inconceivable long shot.  It isn’t okay to fail when you have only tried to meet the status quo. It isn’t okay to fail because you have simply done what everyone else is doing. It isn’t okay to fail when you have only done what is expected. Conformity is a sure path to failure and to mediocrity. It isn’t okay to fail because you were focused on some big idea and you have ignored the details that make up the execution of that idea. Success is in the idea and in its execution.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t used every resource to win. It isn’t okay to fail because you didn’t ask others for the help that would have made the difference.  It isn’t okay to fail if you don’t learn something from the failure.  It isn’t okay to fail because you quit trying. It isn’t okay to fail because you quit when the road got rough and the effort seemed too much.  It is never okay to fail when there is still time on the clock.  It is never okay to fail to get back up.

Successful Time Management Strategies

importance-of-time-management

How many times have you caught yourself saying it, “I just don’t have the time?”. Think for a moment about what you might be able to accomplish if you had an extra day each week, an extra week each month, or an extra month each year? Would that help you get more of the results you are looking for?

Let’s take a look at “Time Management” and what that really means. We don’t need to learn how to manage time well. We need to learn how to manage ourselves well. Time management is personal management. Time management is life management. Each one of us has been given the same 24 hours in a day. Time management is what you do with the time you have been given.

When I speak about time management in my workshops and seminars, I often say, as I learned from Stephen Covey, “There are only two things you work on every single day. These two things are either “priorities” and/or “urgencies”.  Let me define them simply for you in my terms:  Priorities are your goals. Urgencies are everybody else’s goals. If you don’t have your goals clearly written down, you will more than likely find yourself working towards other people’s goals and towards other people’s successes.

One of the reasons that many people are not effective managers of time is that they are not focused enough on their own goals. If you have not taken the time to define your own goals and hold yourself accountable to achieving your goals you will not know where your priorities lie. You will become slave to other people’s priorities and you will more than likely be heard to cry, “There are just not enough hours in the day!”

Here are 7 quick strategies to assist you. (Again, many of these tips were gleaned from books read and tips adapted from others—By the way, you are doing the same thing right now if you choose to ACT on these tips!)

  • Begin each day the night before. DO NOT go home until you have decided what you need to accomplish the next day AND you have written it down.  You need to get into the practice of thinking and planning on paper.  You need to start working from lists.  You will find the most effective managers of their time work from lists.  When you work from a list you tend to be very focused on what you need to accomplish.  You know what you need to accomplish because you are very focused on your goals. Start with a master list. Your master list may be (or include) your annual goals.  These might be broken down into quarterly goals. There are monthly goals, weekly goals and of course daily goals.  Some people even break it down further into partial days and into hourly goals.  Writing things down help keep you focused and focus precedes success! Learn to think on paper. Learn to plan on paper. Limit the amount of “stuff/things to do” you put on your “to do” list.  If you put too much stuff on your list you risk becoming overwhelmed—and then the list becomes a list of broken promises. Learn to say, “no” when something comes up throughout the course of the day, and something always comes up!  When things do come up, before you address it- before you start working on it-before you move on it, write it down on your daily list and stack it up against everything else.  Rank it against everything else before you take action on it because I guarantee you before you start working on somebody else’s urgency, which is somebody else’s priority, which is somebody else’s goals, you might want to have your goals come up first!

 

  • Remember the 80/20 principle.  The principle says that 80% of the results that you get every day come from 20% of the things that are on your list. That means there are 1 or 2 items that are on your list every day that severely affect the outcome of the results that you get every single day.  Therefore, be careful what you are working on.  Often, we tend come into the office and focus on getting the “little stuff” out of the way first.  How many times have you started to work on the “little stuff” and the next thing you know, its 2:00 in the afternoon? When this happens, you might start feeling like a victim because now you are not getting the things done you wanted to accomplish that day

 

  • Take your list and rank it continually. Here is a simple way to rank your list every day.  Write down a simple. alphabet:  A, B, C, D, E. Any “A” items that are on your list are “MUST DO” tasks. These are the non-negotiable items that often have serious consequences if you don’t get them done.  It might be a proposal you have to get done or a deal that’s got to get closed. It could be a part that has to be delivered etc. A word of caution here; Be careful how many “must do” items are on your list!  Next, rank your “A’s” according to priority: #1 – A, #2 – A and so forth.
    • “B” ranked items are “SHOULD DO” tasks.  These are the things that should get done but if they don’t there are only mild consequences. The important thing to keep in mind about “B” items is that you never start a “B” task until all of the “A” tasks are done.
    • The “C” items are the “NICE TO DO” tasks.  It might be lunch with a colleague or perhaps running an errand. These “nice to do’s” never ever get started until both the “A” and “B” items have been checked off.
    • The “D” items are meant to be DELEGATED to someone else.  As the sales professional, you should be the highest paid person in your organization. YOU pay you. If your desire is to earn a lot of money, you must ask yourself all the time, “Is what I am doing right now indicative of the highest paid person in this organization?” If the answer is “NO” than determine who you can delegate the item to. Remember, if you don’t have an assistant, you ARE one!
    • The “E’s” on your list are those items you need to ELIMINATE.  Often the “E” items are things like bad habits.

 

  • Define your key result areas. What are the things you need to do in order to be a sales professional?  You have to prospect. You have to be able to negotiate. You have to be able to work well on the phone and you have to be able to work well in a group setting. You have to network and you have to generate referrals. You have to possibly cold call and send well-crafted emails. You have to learn to open by asking better questions. You have to listen to your customer, etc. etc. There are MANY things you have to be able to do to be effective as a Sales Professional.  Once you define your key result areas, next figure out the areas you lack the most confidence in or have a tendency to be the least effective at. These are the areas you tend to need the most help with and the areas that require the most focus. Buy some books and read them, takes some courses, invest in Internet training, invest in a coach and get better in these areas.  Why is this in a time management article? Very simple.  If you don’t have the time to do it correctly and effectively, how in the world will you have the time to do it over? The areas you are the most ineffective at will always hold you back from your success as a Sales Professional!  Define those key result areas you are going to focus on and devote the time to.

 

  • Take one bite at a time.  There is an old joke: Q: how do you eat an elephant?  A: One bite at a time.  Many of us have large projects in front of us with big things we must accomplish. It could be a huge “to-do” list or one overwhelming task. The feeling might be, “I will NEVER get that done!” You might procrastinate or talk about it. You may just moan and complain until you are behind the gun in time.  Try focusing on each task and THAT alone. Start it; finish it. Get it done and get it off the list. In this way, you will slowly start to move your way through.  Even the largest houses are built one brick at a time.  The most successful sales people built their book of business ONE account at a time. Practice creative procrastination.  This is done by learning what NOT to do.  In time management, it’s not just figuring out what needs to get done, it’s often figuring out what can be left undone that is critical.  Some of the best masters of their time are the ones that set things aside that don’t need to get done right now and address them later. Often times salespeople tend to work on the little stuff or we work on other people’s stuff or we work on stuff that seems easier. It’s these items that have little impact and severely decrease our productivity (although it fills us with activity) and thus take away from the management of our time.

 

  • “Eat the big frog first.”  There is an old saying that says if you’ve got to sit down and eat a bunch of frogs, don’t stare at them for too long and if you are going to get started, eat the biggest frog first.  Every day, what do we do?  We come in to the office and we say, “let me just clear this up, check these emails”, let me do this, let me do that, and the next thing you know, it is 4:00 and we have these big tasks and big jobs overwhelming us!  We’ve got all these things going on and not only are we not productive with our time; we are not getting the things done that we need to get done!  This is the time to take you’re A, B, C, D, E list out.  The first thing that you work on is the biggest frog.  You’re A-1 task is your biggest frog! Sit down and tackle it.  Start it; work your way through it and finish it.

 

  • Develop and maintain a sense or urgency.  Put an exclamation above your head, put an asterisk on either side on it and that’s what you want to be your logo for life as a sales professional. (*!*) You are in a world where everyone needs something done and they need it done now!  The people who are the most successful in the profession of sales are those who get it done better and get it done faster! Nike has built an empire around 3 words, “Just Do It”.  My 3 words are “Get It Done”.  Get it done and move on to the next thing.  That’s the hallmark of time management professionals.  Here are a few tips for doing so:
    • Tip #1: Single handle every task.  Start it; get all the way through it before you move onto the next thing. You will cut the time it takes to do everything else in half.
    • Tip #2: Join the 5 o’clock club. Get up in the morning earlier.  From 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m., I have a little thing that I like to call the Golden 120 because those are my 120 minutes every day that customers do not need me, my wife does not need me, my kids do not need me and my employees do not need me. Those 120 minutes are “my time”.  I may choose to work out, read a book, or write newsletter article or a new sales training module. The one thing I am NOT going to do during this time is sleep it away! You will be amazed at how much you can get done every day with the Golden 120 in the 5 o’clock club.
    • Tip #3: Turn your inbound Email off until 10 o’clock. Don’t open your email until 10 o’clock. When you are taking emails from people, you are working on what they want you to do.  Focus on what you do from 8 to 10; you will be amazed at what happens.

 

I want to wish you the absolute best of selling and remember, there is no such thing as the management of time. Practicing self-discipline along with these 7 strategies above will set you on your way to effectively manage the time that you have been given and ensure that you are working on YOUR priorities.

The Top 10 Things That Top Sales People Do

Shot of two businessmen shaking hands

Top Sales Pros are a special breed of cat.  They engage in decidedly different activities on a regular basis.  Although they walk and talk the same at first glance, they do very unique things every day that, in and of themselves are not overly special but, when combined, these things create a vortex of success that attracts the best customers, the most referrals, the strongest relationships and the highest commissions!

I have been fortunate to be a sales professional for many years that others have placed in the “Top Sales Pro” category.  In addition, I have the pleasure of working with many top sales pros (and many more on the other end of the spectrum) every year in my business as a speaker and sales coach.  In doing so, I have witnessed some of the best practices that are consistent among only the best.  The 10 things that I have compiled below are not the only things that these Heavy Hitters do, but they are, in my opinion, the most important:

1. They Take Full Responsibility

The Best of the Best never place blame on others for their failure or misfires.  They realize that the only one responsible for their success or failure is the person that they stare at in the mirror every morning.  By accepting responsibility for everything, they NEVER become the victim of competition, market circumstances, pricing, or any other issues that are attacking their competition that whine, complain, and sit around waiting for the next big bad wolf.

2. They Guard Their Attitudes with Their Lives

The Top Producers understand that their Attitude is their most important asset to their success and they do everything they can to make sure they bolster it and protect it.  They never hang around with those who choose to place blame, point fingers, complain, and bellyache.  They go out of their way to associate with winners and successful people.  Although they may get invitations to the pity parties, they never choose to attend. In addition, these cats NEVER feel that they know it all.  In fact, they always seek other’s opinions, knowledge, and experience.  They believe anything is possible and you know what…most of the time, they are right!

3. They Feed Their Brains-Every Day

The Best of the Best did not just wake up one day on the top of the heap.  They actually worked hard to feed their brains the things that it needs to grow.  They realize that the marketplace never stands still.  They realize that customers needs will always change and they choose to stay ahead of the curve.  Consequently, they read books, articles, and reports in the areas that demand their attention.  They constantly “sharpen their axes” in the areas of salesmanship, customer service, empathy, and differentiation. They seek to become an expert in their field by increasing their knowledge every day on purpose.

4. Plan-Prepare-Practice

The Top Producers always seem to have a plan.  It all starts with major clarity on their goals.  They are very clear on the WHY so the WHAT and the HOW become their focus.  The Heavy Hitters go into every call with a purpose and a higher level of preparation.  They have run through all the “what-if” scenarios.  They have thought through, written down, and practiced the questions that they will ask.  They have mentally run through everything from the customer’s prospective.  They are prepared to “open” the customer more effectively and practiced at transitioning to the “close” of the sale.  They know the solid IMPACT statements and questions at the right time because they plan them, prepare them, and practice them ALL the time.

5. They Brand Themselves in Their Marketplace 

The Cream of the Selling Crop make sure that they are “known-for” something in the marketplace.  They create a buzz about who they are and what they know or do by becoming visible to those who may use their product or service.  They realize that being a vendor is a tough gig because vendors are a dime a dozen, unless the customer only wants to pay a nickel.  The Best of the Best want to be known as the EXPERT. They do the things necessary to position themselves in the marketplace as THE CHOICE rather than A CHOICE.  They take the time to write articles and have them published in magazines and newsletters that their customers read.  They get out of their comfort zones and look to speak at industry events that their customers attend.  They constantly and consistently “touch” their prospects, customers, and clients in a variety of creative and value-add ways to ensure top of consciousness in the minds of the buyers.  Top Pros always seek to create “Only Me” value to the sale.

6. They are Willing to Lose

All too often, most salespeople don’t take the risk of asking for the YES because they are afraid to hear the NO.  The Top Sales Pros understand that they are in the NO taking business.  They also understand that their success is highly dependant upon their willingness to “crash and burn” in failure.  Jeffery Gitomer once sated that “Most people won’t risk because they think they fear the unknown.  The real reason that they won’t risk is because they lack the preparation and education that breeds the self confidence (self-belief) to take a chance.”  The great Wayne Gretzky once said that “You miss 100% of the shots that you never take.”  And so it is with the best salespeople:  They get out in front and risk it all for themselves, for the customer, and for their career because they know that most of their competition will STOP when the pressure of the potential loss gets too high.

7. They Recognize Opportunity and Take ACTION Faster

Top Sales Professionals do not get more opportunities than all the rest.  It just seems that way because they are always on “high receive” looking for it.  They put themselves in situations where opportunity tends to be present.  They understand that opportunity at first can look like problems, challenges, or adversity.  They further understand that CHANGE is often at the base of opportunity.  They realize that this is true from their perspective and from the customers-and thus, their lies the opportunity. They don’t hesitate. They don’t sit around strategizing.  They take action!  When most people are wondering if it will work, the Top Sales Professionals are getting the awards for getting it done!  Events get attended with different purposes.  Articles get read with different eyes.  Conversations get heard with different ears.

8. They are a Resource

Top Producers are the go-to people for their customers.  They have the answers to their customers’ questions and the solutions to their problems.  They realize that the world is full of “Takers” that will come in and “take” the customer’s time, “take” the customer’s order, and “take” the customer’s money, but rarely, if ever, add anything of value to the relationship.  Top Producers realize that, in order to continually be valuable to the customer, they need to become more than a vendor.  They need to know the customer’s world as well or better than they know theirs. The Best of the Best always “bring something to the table” that changes the outlook of the customer and makes them think or perform in different ways.  The Top Pros are there for more than the order; they are there through thick and thin, providing the value of their expertise and knowledge to those whom he cares about the most-his/her customer.

9. They Take Time to Re-Charge

The Heavy Hitters do a lot of things that most salespeople will not do.  This takes time, energy, passion, commitment, and focus.  All of the results that they get come from hard-work and dedication to the job.  The Best of the Best not only know when to do these things, they also know when to “shut it down” and re-fuel.  Even the fastest cars (the ones that are winning) in Nascar races have to make their occasional pit-stop to re-fuel and get ready for the next leg of the race.  They cannot continue to win the race unless they do.  So it is with Top Salespeople.  In order to keep winning the race of professional sales, they need to have a quality of life outside the selling marketplace.  The Best of the Best know that the only reason to be in this game (sales) is to have a better life and more of it!  We find that these cats take longer/better vacations, schedule more time with their families, dig deeper into “outside work” passions/hobbies, and overall get more out of life than those who “work the grind.”  They realize that enjoyment and passion are synonymous with Success and if too much WORK goes into one area over another, the enjoyment and the passion start to fade.

10. They Take What They Do Very Seriously Without Taking Themselves Too Serious

The Best of the Best in sales realize that they are in a profession. Just like all professionals, there are expectations that customers hold them to.  A doctor has expectations that not only will she have a good bedside manner, but that she will know her area of expertise to such a degree that human lives may be placed in her care.  A lawyer has expectations to know not only the law (today’s law) but to also know everything else about his area of expertise such that success or failure at the hands of a jury is entrusted to him.  And so it is with sales professionals:  The Top Pros know that The Profession of Sales is for Sales Professionals.  As professionals, they know that the 9 areas that I have listed above require their constant attention.  They realize that the solutions that they can and do provide for their customers can change lives and affect so many.  And yet, with all of that in mind, they go into the battle each day with a light heart and a sound attitude knowing that they will hear no.  They realize that having FUN is a vital part of the game and that most people would rather do business with a friend than with a salesperson.  And so, they strive to be light hearted and heavily focused to gain the trust of the people with whom they choose to engage.

It has been said that Success Leaves Clues. Hopefully these success strategies of the Top Sales pros will give you some clue as to where you can get back on track to superstardom in the profession of selling.